WACO — The Baylor offensive coaches, even the players, spent much of the second quarter in a desperate sort of fog, trying to figure out the best way to revive a game plan that was nullified by a single hit on a quarterback.
Chris Johnson, the Bears’ third-string quarterback, suffered a concussion when he was smacked by Longhorns safety P.J. Locke with about two minutes to play in the first quarter.
That left Baylor down to emergency quarterback Lynx Hawthorne, a redshirt junior and punt returner who last started a game at quarterback when he was in the 11th grade playing for his dad at Weimar High School.
Hawthorne threw interceptions on two of Baylor’s next three series. The Bears’ offense, statistically, the best in the country, had crash-landed in a blazing heap.
What to do? Why not try the single wing? In today’s vernacular, it’s called the wildcat, but it’s basically the same play that has its roots in the offense iconic coach Pop Warner created more than a century ago.
Briles said his coaches hurriedly drew up the wildcat at halftime, an offense they hadn’t really used since 2009. They decided to have either reserve tailbacks Johnny Jefferson or Terence Williams take the direct snap from center. Baylor’s top two running backs, Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin, were out with injuries.
“I don’t know if ‘panic’ is the right word,” Briles said. “But I would think it was kind of a regrouping atmosphere and attitude. You’re ready for that, but when it happens, you’re not. Then the realization sets in that a lot of the game plan is essentially out the window.
“We got a chance to get in (the locker room) and try to figure out something that could help generate some positive yards,” Briles said. “And I thought it was pretty effective, for the most part. I thought Johnny and Terence did a good job. Twenty-eight (Chafin) got dinged up in the first half, and then Shock couldn’t go. So I thought those guys did a great job.”
Hawthorne wasn’t comfortable throwing the ball. He’d only been moved to Johnson’s backup two weeks ago and was taking about 25 snaps each day in practice. But he could run.
By game’s end, even star receiver Corey Coleman was lining up in the backfield. Baylor gained 395 rushing yards.
“I never thought it would depend on our fourth-string quarterback,” Coleman said. Hawthorne is “a receiver and we still came back. It’s just really tough, the situation because everything we practiced with the entire week with our starting quarterback and he’s gone early and we have to switch up a lot of stuff on the fly.”